Los Angeles, January 26, 2023 – Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), today announced the Museums’ selection of Kossmanndejong (KDJ) as the firm that will lead the design of exhibition spaces and develop visitor experiences for the reimagining of the La Brea Tar Pits – the world’s only active paleontological research site in an urban setting. KDJ, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is well known for creating three-dimensional narratives for institutions around the world. Selected through an international search and competitive process, KDJ will provide creative and interpretive strategies for the site-wide redesign in Hancock Park, working in tandem with the architectural and landscape design team led by WEISS/MANFREDI, along with Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates, who NHMLAC recently named Executive Architect for the project.
“We have been building toward a reimagined La Brea Tar Pits for several years now, as we plan for a visitor experience equal to the promise of sharing discoveries from a research site unique in the world,” said Dr. Bettison-Varga. “Our goal is to highlight the vital relevance of the Tar Pits to our own era of climate change, provide facilities that better support ongoing scientific work, preserve this beloved Los Angeles icon, and create a gracious community gathering place with an accessible outdoor green space. As we develop a schematic design to achieve these goals, we are thrilled to have KDJ join us as collaborators. We were impressed by their inviting, thought-provoking projects involving scientific, historical, and site-specific collections and were won over by the roles of community engagement and collaborative research in their design process.”
NHMLAC selected KDJ through a rigorous process, which included studio and project visits domestically and abroad, followed by requests for proposals from a short list of prestigious international exhibition design firms and time on site at La Brea Tar Pits for each of the design teams, who led charrettes to demonstrate their method of work. KDJ was chosen unanimously by NHMLAC staff across a number of departments and will work closely with WEISS/MANFREDI, Gruen Associates, and the team at NHMLAC to continue developing the schematic design for the project.
“It’s a great honor that KDJ has been chosen to design La Brea Tar Pits' new exhibition galleries,” said Niels de Jong, creative director and partner at Kossmanndejong. “The Tar Pits is such a fascinating place for so many reasons, including being the only urban spot in the world where Ice Age fossils have been found and are still excavated. We are thrilled to be part of a project where architecture, landscape, design, and programming are woven together into an integrated visitor experience.”
Formed in 1998, Kossmanndejong operates globally with clients including museums, companies, events, and public spaces, and has received numerous domestic and international awards. Kossmanndejong and its clients won the prestigious European Museum of the Year prize three years in a row: Museum of the Mind (Amsterdam, NL) in 2022, Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, NL) in 2021, and the Stapferhaus (Lenzburg, CH) in 2020.
The planned transformation of the La Brea Tar Pits’ 13-acre campus kicked off in 2019, when NHMLAC selected WEISS/MANFREDI through a competition with public input to create a master plan to improve research facilities and collections space, expand exhibits, and unify the various elements of the site: the Lake Pit, the tar pits, the lawn and park areas, and the museum at La Brea Tar Pits (established in 1977 as the George C. Page Museum). Titled “Loops and Lenses,” WEISS/MANFREDI’s design concept would unite the site’s elements with a new 1-kilometer pedestrian path in the shape of a double helix, create more cohesive outdoor recreational and learning spaces, renovate the current Page Museum building to better house and display the collection and expand the museum with a second structure with additional exhibitions and programming spaces. The reimagining project is a multi-year process of public engagement, master planning, and design, leading to construction. “
La Brea Tar Pits are like no other place in the world,” said Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, co-founders of WEISS/MANFREDI. “We are excited to translate the very tactile magic of the Tar Pits, through architecture and landscape, into a place that captures the global imagination. We are thrilled to be at this pivotal moment in the master planning process, and with the addition of LA-based Gruen as Executive Architect and the exhibition designers at KDJ we are excited to give measure to this dream and deliver a world-class destination.”
From the start of the La Brea Tar Pits reimagining project, NHMLAC has been committed to an open and inclusive process, which has included public listening sessions and a rigorous process of study, research, information collection, testing, and analysis by WEISS/MANFREDI. Los Angeles County is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Master Plan, which will be available for public review and comment by Summer 2023.
La Brea Tar Pits is one of the most important paleontological localities in the world. It is a gateway to the Ice Age, a living laboratory for the local and global community to discover groundbreaking research and watch excavators dig for plant and animal fossils trapped in the tar pits 10,000 to 50,000 years ago. The significance of the La Brea Tar Pits was underscored this past October when it was selected as one of The First 100 IUGS Geological Heritage Sites named by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), one of the world’s largest scientific organizations, representing more than one million geoscientists from some 120 member countries. A new designation similar to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the IUGS Geological Heritage Sites listing identifies places with geological elements and/or processes of international scientific relevance and those that represent a substantial contribution to the understanding of Earth.
The Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits was built nearly 50 years ago. The redesign will create the necessary facilities for modern-day scientific research, such as accessible collections storage and chemistry labs to facilitate vital ongoing research at the site. For more information about research at La Brea Tar Pits, visit TarPits.org.
About La Brea Tar Pits
The asphalt seeps at La Brea Tar Pits are the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. This makes the site a unique window into active science—where fossils are discovered, prepared, researched, and displayed in one place. Outside, visitors can watch excavators unearth fossils of Ice Age plants and animals that were trapped and preserved in the seeps. Inside the Museum, scientists and volunteers clean, repair, and identify those fossils. The best specimens are displayed and available for research: from extraordinary saber-toothed cats, giant sloths, dire wolves, mammoths, and mastodons—to microfossils of small animals and plants. These collections constitute an unparalleled resource for understanding environmental change in Los Angeles, and the planet, during the last 50,000 years of Earth’s history.
About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) include the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, and the William S. Hart Museum in Newhall. They operate under the collective vision to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—more than 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historical research, the museums also incorporate them into on- and offsite nature and culture exploration in L.A. neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs—creating indoor-outdoor visitor experiences that explore the past, present, and future. Visit NHMLAC.ORG for adventure, education, and entertainment opportunities.
About WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism
WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism is at the forefront of architectural design practices that are redefining the relationships between landscape, architecture, infrastructure, and art. Named one of North America's "Emerging Voices" by New York’s Architectural League, WEISS/MANFREDI won the 2018 Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award, the New York AIA Gold Medal, and the Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Most Recently, WEISS/MANFREDI was honored with the international Thomas Jefferson Gold Medal in Architecture. The firm's cross-disciplinary projects include the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Ten Best Architectural Marvels, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, Penn’s Center for Nanotechnology, the Women’s Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, the Museum of the Earth, and the recently opened Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park. They are currently working on the Tampa Museum of Art and the US Embassy in New Delhi, India. For more information visit weissmanfredi.com.
Kossmanndejong are Amsterdam-based experience architects who create immersive narrative spaces for interaction, inspiration, and connection. They have set the bar in exhibition and visitor experience design since 1998 and have received numerous domestic and international awards. Operating globally for museums, companies, events, and public spaces, Kossmanndejong excels in creating engaging experiences for diverse audiences through its authentic, rich, and deeply personal designs. Conducting immersive research enables Kossmanndejong’s designers to inhabit their client’s mentality and envision immersive experiences for visitors. Recent projects include Nature. And us? in the Stapferhaus in Lenzburg (CH), the Groote Museum at ARTIS Amsterdam (NL), The Voice of Urban Nature at Floriade Expo 2022 in Almere, Growth, What is That? at the Malmö Museum, Malmo (SE) and Our Colonial Inheritance at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam (NL). Kossmanndejong and its clients won the prestigious European Museum of the Year prize three years in a row: Museum of the Mind in 2022, Naturalis Biodiversity Center in 2021, and the Stapferhaus in 2020. For more information, visit kossmanndejong.nl
About Gruen Associates
Headquartered in Los Angeles since 1946, GRUENASSOCIATES (Gruen) employs a multi-disciplinary staff of 75 individuals led by five partners. Founded on the integration of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design/planning, Gruen is renowned for their collaborative project management, execution and delivery of complex, public-use projects, especially those designed by world-class designers. Winners of the 2015 Firm Award by AIA California and the 2019 American Planning Association (APA) Los Angeles Segment Distinguished Leadership - Planning Firm Award, the firm has been responsible for the successful completion of many of the region’s most recognizable landmark projects including many notable historic projects.
One of Los Angeles’s best-known legacy architecture firms, Gruen’s portfolio of landmark projects spans more than 75 years. Building on the trailblazing success of legendary Founder Victor Gruen; since the beginning, Gruen’s landmark buildings enhance the urban landscape, and shape the environment for millions of users. Many historic, urban neighborhoods have been revitalized through our architectural design, planning, landscape, streetscape, urban design and transportation planning solutions that have created multi-purpose, engaging spaces for community interaction, and social and economic growth. For more information, visit gruenassociates.com.
Claire Atkinson, NHMLAC
email@example.com; (213) 763-3532
Maura Klosterman-Vu, Polskin Arts